Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Violent Muslims Will Try To Trump The Moderates

There were indeed signs of hope at this week's Annapolis meetings on the Arab-Israeli dispute, but the New York Times was right in its editorial this morning to express great caution about whatever optimism there was.

"...The difficulty of reaching an accord before Mr. Bush leaves office cannot be overstated," the newspaper said. "Yesterday's joint statement, which was vaguer than we had hoped, is a reminder of just how difficult. While the two sides said their talks should be aimed at concluding a treaty that deals with all 'core issues,' they couldn't agree on naming them and how they might be addressed. For the record, they are: the future of Jerusalem, the fate of refugees, the borders of a Palestinian state and guaranteeing Israel's security."

Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Times editorial also warns that what it calls "the fragile embryo of peace" must be protected and nourished. But it observes that "the repugnant spectacle of Jews praying at the Western Wall for the failure of the peace process and of Hamas supporters condemning Abbas to death as a 'traitor' should be a clarion call to moderates in the Middle East and around the world."

The L.A. Times, as usual, bends over backward to be evenhanded between Jewish and Muslim extremists, but the fact is that the major threat to peace in the Middle East and elsewhere is fundamentalist Islam, and that every attempt we have seen to bring about peace has quickly prompted more violence.

We see that again today. Thousands rallied in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip to call for a renewal of attacks against Israel, and seven rockets were fired from Gaza onto Israeli territory. Meanwhile, Iran condemned the Annapolis meetings and Saudi Arabia said it had arrested eight terrorists who were plotting to attack Saudi oil wells, the latest in more than 200 recent arrests of alleged Al-Qaeda operatives in that Kingdom. The Saudis attended the Annapolis meetings, but emphasized beforehand that they wouldn't shake hands with the Israelis.

Meanwhile, in France, this week there has been a resurgence of violence in the largely Muslim Paris suburbs, following an accident with police that killed two teenagers. Only this time, New York Times reporter Elaine Sciolino reports this morning, the rioters have been using shotguns to fire on the police when in the riots of 2005 they only threw stones. L.A. Times reporter Geraldine Baum leads her story with the rioters burning a library. How appropriate! The Nazis burned books in the 1930s, and now the modern Nazis of Islamic fundamentalism have joined them.

Incidents such as are occurring in France, and other instances of Muslim extremism, such as the arrest of a British teacher in the Sudan for allowing her seven-year-old students to name a teddy bear Muhammad, or the expressed intent of Saudi authorities to give 200 lashes and a prison term to a young woman who was raped can only exacerbate feelings in the West that neither Muslim governments, nor immigrants, at least in Europe, can be counted upon to be civilized. Certainly, their behavior toward women is frequently abominable. If there is anybody in those countries who deserves punishment, it is those who bring such charges against innocent women.

The Sudanese government, let's remind ourselves, has been instrumental in recent years in the murder of hundreds of thousands of fellow-Muslims in Darfur, who happen to be black. Just today, there are new reports that this slimy bunch of thugs in Khartoum is further impeding the implantation of an international peacekeeping force to stop the bloodshed.

Yes, there are millions of Muslim moderates, but they seldom speak out clearly against such excesses. To their credit, however, British Muslim leaders have condemned the Sudan for persecuting the teacher.

In his usually provocative column this morning, the New York Times' Thomas Friedman observes, "The Middle East is experiencing something we haven't seen in a long, long time: moderates getting their act together a little, taking tentative stands and pushing back on the bad guys. If all that sounds kind of, sort of, maybe, qualified, well...it is. But in a region in which extremists go all the way and the moderates usually just go away, it's the first good news in years -- an oasis in a desert of despair.

"The only problem is that this tentative march of the moderates -- which got a useful boost here with the Annapolis peace gathering -- is driven largely by fear, not by any shared vision of a region where Sunni and Shiite, Arab and Jew, trade, interact, collaborate and compromise in the way that countries in Southeast Asia have learned to do for their mutual benefit."

One thing is sure: If the Mexican government was sending an emissary to a meeting in Washington, and at the same time, thousands of Mexicans were rallying in Tijuana to scream for attacks on the United States, and, if the next morning, seven rockets were to hit the San Diego suburbs from Mexico, the United States reaction would not be peaceful. And I don't imagine even the often starry-eyed L.A. Times would be equivocating neo-cons in Washington with terrorists in Mexico.

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